Iraqi top religious leader has condemned the deadly attacks on people who protest against the government on the streets of Baghdad. In addition, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani urges the national security forces not do more to prevent violence in protest squares across Iraq, MEMO reports.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, a top Shiite cleric, on Friday condemned recent attacks on anti-government demonstrators that were resulted in the death of eight protesters. All of them were adepts of the populist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr.
“There is no justification for them to stop fulfilling their duties in this regard, or for anyone to stop them from doing so,” Mr Al Sistani said during his weekly sermon on Friday.
The Iraqi top religious person also condemned the bloodshed as “painful and unfortunate” and said the national security forces were “indispensable” to keep Iraq from plunging into chaos. Bloodshed is not an option, that creates only a vicious circle, said the Shiite leader.
“They must bear responsibility for maintaining security and stability, protecting peaceful protesters and their gathering places, revealing the identities of aggressors and infiltrators, and protecting the interests of citizens from the attacks of saboteurs,” grand ayatolla added.
Iraq is still protesting
Since October, when the street protests against government started, nearly 490 people have been killed across the country. The rallies also erupted in Baghdad and across the Shiite-majority south demanding an overhaul of the political elite.
The mass protests made security forces to respond with tear gas, live rounds and even machine gun fire, which Mr Al Sistani had condemned in his previous sermons.
Eight people have died this week, all of them are demonstrators said they faced a new threat from supporters of Mr Al Sadr, who initially backed the protest movement but then threw his support behind the nomination of Mohammad Allawi as Iraq’s new prime minister last weekend.
Mr Al Sistani’s sermon appeared to have buoyed the remaining demonstrators in Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square on Friday. Grand ayatollah holds great influence over public opinion among Iraq’s Shiite majority but he avoids commenting on politics except during crises. His withdrawal of support for the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi in November sealed the outgoing premier’s fate.
“It must be capable of calming the situation and take steps towards early elections free of the influence of money, weapons and foreign interference,” Al Sistani said.